Saturday, October 10, 2009

Christian Way of Knowing

What is Christian Way of Knowing?

What makes the faith of a Christian unique is the belief in a Trinitarian God––The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. This belief is not shared by Jews, Muslims and many other religions. For them the Son of God, Jesus Christ, is not a god but only a prophet. As Christians we cannot deny that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who is both fully God and fully human. Jesus Christ is not just some super human being or a prophet, but He is God, being the same in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Yet, we also hold firm to the belief in One God as do the Jews and Muslims. Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, but of three persons. They act in total harmony (model of total love) but as different persons. This trinitarian nature of the one God is surrounded with mystery because it is not totally rational, nor deducible from a set of propositions. It is with this fundamental mystical Trinitarian concept of God where Christian knowing must begin.

Where did this belief come from? It did not come though any intellectual deductions, but from God's revelations to mankind.  It is expressed in a veiled way in the Old Testament, but in the New Testament it is fully revealed with the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, His adoration of the Father, and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Modern theologian Dumitru Staniloae writes,
By becoming incarnate the Son is also avowing as man his filial love of the Father, but is an obedient love; likewise he reveals the Father to men so that they may love him precisely as Father.  ...Through the Son the Father is avowing his own love as Father.  Morever, the Holy Spirit makes spiritual the humanity assumed by the Son and deifies it, which is ti say, makes it fit to participate in the love which the divine hypostasis of the Son has toward the Father. The revelation of the Trinity...has no ther purpose than to draw us after grace, to draw us through the Holy Spirit into the filial relationship the Son has with the Father.
So what is the significance of this Christian belief that defies logical proof?  
The truth it embraces is that we only know ultimate reality though God's revelation to us.  We are not always able to provide a clear rationale for the revelations provided to us. We must have a bit of humility as we are God's creation and therefore have limitations in the knowledge of the Creator and His creation. The ultimate knowledge cannot come from man's own metal constructs or logical deductions but must exist on a higher plane.  The only way we can be assured of knowing the full truth of reality is through a relationship with God Himself.  This ability to have such a relationship is the uniqueness of our creation as human beings, where we embody both body and spirit, linking creation and the spiritual. Christian knowledge is therefore personal and based on a relationship with God. 

Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians,
I struggle that their hearts may be comforted and for them to be united in love obtaining the treasure that is in the full assurance of understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God the Father and of Christ.  In Him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge! ( Col 2:2-3)
This is why we seek out and trust people who are called holy for spiritual guidance.  These are people who have perfected themselves is such a way that they have been blessed with a personal relationship with God and filled with the activity of the Holy Spirit.  They can be found mainly today in the monasteries of the Church. When we encounter such persons, they have a special presence or radiance of an "uncreated light." We immediately sense that they posses a wisdom that we can all have, but do not yet posses, even though we may be highly knowledgeable of Scripture, Church Tradition, and highly skilled in logic and rhetoric. Such knowledge is not dependent on our level of education. Do you remember the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  The first Christians formed a community where all things were shared in common.  Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a possession and secretly held back a part of the proceeds for themselves.  Peter had the insight of the Holy Spirit to know what they had done.  He says, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart so as to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land?" (Acts 5:3) This is the nature of a holy person. They are given powers of insight beyond our normal senses. This indicates a higher level of knowing.

The closer we come to God, the wiser we become, the more we know, the more powers we are given, and the better we are able to commune with Him. This is what is significant.  You see, its not our intellectual knowledge that makes us wiser, but our ability to commune with God.  Our ability to know truth is personal and based on a intimate relationship with a Trinitarian God.  Our possession of it depends on how well we develop this relationship with God. This is the basis of the Christian way of knowing.  Trinitarian knowing is not one of logic, but one based on a closeness to God where He reveals to us His fulness of the truth.

This is not an easy view for us to hold, because since the Enlightenment we have believed primarily that truth is based on reason and our scientific exploration of God's physical creation. This has been tempered in modern times with relativism which denies any absolute truth reducing all claims of truth to a relative and potentially meaningless position. For a Christian, truth cannot be  based on propositions or intellectual conclusions or obscured in relativity. Reality is based on the existence of a Trinitarian God with whom we can form a personal relationship and experience His energies. 

What does this say about the role of objective knowledge for a Christian? Clifton Healy in his article, "A Project for Faithful Thinking" writes,
A Christian understands that no human being can have purely objective knowledge. We believe that as creations of God, ours is a contingent knowing, inescapably subjective per se. But this subjectivity is balanced and transformed by the only being who can claim pure objectivity, the Holy Trinity. The Christian has access to the objectivity which God himself provides in and through the Holy Spirit and his testimony in the Church, the Scriptures and the life of the Church, also known as Tradition. There is no other focal point outside the Holy Spirit’s work in the Body of Christ through which any of us can have access to unchanging Truth. 
As the Apostle Peter tells us in his epistle that God’s “divine power has granted us all that we need to live in godliness through the knowledge of  Him who called us by His own glory and virtue. Through these things, He has granted to us His precious and tremendous promises so that... you may become partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:3–4)
If it is the case that truly Christian thinking is, at its core, a partaking of the divine nature, and if Christian thinking, to be faithful, must be whole, and can only be whole insofar as it is in real communion with the Holy Trinity, then it clearly must also be the case that Christian thinking, if it is to be faithful, must be holy. For our God is a consuming fire, whom, without holiness, no one will see...
What is the Christian way of knowing and thinking?  It is attention that is centered on knowing God and His revelations in a personal yet universal way. It is attention whose aim is to bring us into a more intimate relationship with God. It is attention that strives to understand what it is that God wills us to do and then to maintain the discipline in our bodies to actually do it.  The way of knowing for a Christian is about bringing our bodies in harmony with the nature of God's love demonstrated in the nature of the Holy Trinity so we in total wholeness form a union with Him. "It is in Christ we find all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."

Unidentified quotes from Clifton D. Healy on his blog: This Is Life!: Revolutions Around the Cruciform AxisA Project for Faithful Thinking.

1 comment:

  1. The Trinitarian god is not unique to Christianity:


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